Living His Dream
Benny experienced a tumultuous childhood growing up in Spanish Harlem in the 1970s. One of eight children with a father who suffered from alcoholism, he struggled in school.
But he learned to fix electronics and was able to eke out a living repairing televisions and programming police radios before eventually landing a steady warehouse job in the Bronx, where he also had his own apartment.
But when he fractured his foot and was no longer able to work, he was let go.
Before long, he could no longer pay his rent and was evicted.
With no family to turn to (his parents and siblings all deceased), Benny found himself on the street.
He took up refuge on the front steps of a local church, where a good Samaritan noticed him and offered to let him sleep in an alcove on the top floor of a nearby building, in exchange for his help with cleaning and managing the building’s trash.
Benny was more than happy to oblige. He was just so relieved to have a safe space to lay his head at night.
But when one of the building’s tenants complained that Benny was taking shelter there illegally, he found himself back on the street again.
For more than a year, he moved around from place to place, spending one night in a church basement, the next on the street. But no matter where he was, he never felt safe.
Eventually, with the help of a dedicated human service worker who helped him navigate the application and lottery system, Benny was lucky enough to secure a place at VOA-Greater New York’s East Clark Place Senior Residence in the Bronx.
Now in his 60s, Benny has the security of knowing where he will sleep each night, in addition to having access to all the basic comforts that come with having a home—clean sheets, towels, toiletries, access to nutritious food.
As a resident of East Clarke Place, Benny now has the support of on-site VOA-Greater New York staff that can help him with anything he needs, like trips to the grocery store or paying his bills. He can also participate in any of the activities offered, like game nights, exercise classes and trips to museums, though what he really enjoys is listening to music in his apartment—a space all his own.
When asked how he feels about his new home, Benny says, “It is the dream of my life. This is something I never had. It is so beautiful [here]. I can sit down, relax, look outside my big window. Walk out onto the patio.”
"It is the dream of my life."
Benny also appreciates the staff, especially Brian Moriarty, Assistant Vice President of Behavioral Health and Senior Housing, who Benny says has a “great sense of humor.” All of them really care, he says. "I feel their heart in my heart."